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* How the Easter Sunday bombings reshaped Sri Lanka's political landscape
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 07:32 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Aug 12 (CNA) Sri Lanka's political landscape is fragile than ever - with frequent protests, no-confidence motion and a dysfunctional government.

Elections Commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya announced earlier last month that presidential elections will be held between Nov 15 and Dec 8. Although the nominees have yet to be confirmed, both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe may contest for the presidency.

The chances of either of them winning the presidential elections are, however, slim.

The two leaders have been at loggerheads since last year on a wide range of issues, but the Easter Sunday bombings in April have aggravated their differences such that there are now calls for both to resign.

Supporters, including the two men's party members who previously backed them, are angry at the two leaders for ailing to take appropriate measures to stop the Sri Lanka Easter bombing that killed at least 250 in April.

United Nation Party's Urban Council Chairman Rehan Jayawickreme in a public letter had asked Wickremesinghe to step aside.

The opposition has capitalised on these developments. Early this month, opposition group the People's Liberation Front (JVP) moved a no-confidence vote against the government on grounds that the ruling coalition ignored vital intelligence reports that could have prevented the Easter Sunday bombings.

The motion received support from Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Joint Opposition who voted in favour of the motion.

The onus of the Easter Sunday attacks has fallen largely on Sirisena's head since he is the Commander-in-Chief and Minister in Defence.

Senior officials have accused him of being privy to the Easter attack warnings. Suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara submitted a petition to the Supreme Court indicting Sirisena of failing to stop the attacks.

The Parliamentary Select Committee, formed to probe into the Easter Sunday attacks, had also found evidence suggesting Sirisena had failed to act on prior warnings.

Wickremesinghe's United National Front voted against the motion but acknowledged that the government failed to take appropriate measures.


Following the Easter bombings, communal tensions in Sri Lanka have ratcheted up. Hate speech by nationalists has fuelled anti-Muslim violence.

Muslim-owned shops and houses were attacked and destroyed. Curfews had to be imposed - which were later lifted but re-imposed on several occasions.

The pardoning of the General Secretary of hardline group Bodu Bala Sena Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara despite his inciting of anti-Muslim violence has aggravated the already-fragile situation.

Sri Lanka's economy, especially the tourism sector, has been badly hit after the attacks. Sri Lanka, despite being Lonely Planet's best country to visit in 2019, saw a massive drop in tourist arrivals.

Hotel occupancy plummeted by 85 to 90 per cent as compared to before the attacks and news reports suggest holiday beaches, restaurants and shops have been close to empty.


While the government recently announced that it will reduce the price of aviation fuel, embarkation and ground handling fees for six months at Colombo airport in an attempt to boost tourism, it is uncertain whether these measures can be effective.

It's no wonder that the people of Sri Lanka are angry at their leaders.


The leaders' demise arguably, however, started long ago before the Easter bombings.

President Sirisena's legitimacy has been called into question after a series of miscalculated moves during last year's political crisis in which he dismissed Wickremesinghe and dissolved parliament, which plunged the economy into crisis, depreciated the rupee and damaged investor confidence.

In December, Sri Lanka's courts opened the way for potential impeachment against the president as they ruled that his dissolving of parliament was unconstitutional.

He was then compelled to reinstate Wickremesinghe to prevent jeopardising his own political career.

Meanwhile, public support for Wickremesinghe plummeted ever since his alleged involvement in the Central Bank Bond scam that had citizens questioning the government's transparency and competence, and perpetuated the image that corruption is rampant in Sri Lanka.

Read More:: CNA (Source)